Plan Your Best Meeting: Pre-Work

In the prior posts we’ve put together our agenda and identified our participants. In this post, I discuss how we prepare ourselves and participants by developing and sharing pre-work for meetings.

Pre-Work Sounds Like Work

I have danced for most of my life. Practice and preparation are as important as the performance. That’s how I think about pre-work for meetings. Everyone who will be part of the meeting should be as ready as possible to do their part. That involves some level of pre-work to help them understand what they will be doing.

What is pre-work?

Pre-work for meetings are usually some type of materials that are shared with participants in advance of the meeting. These give the participants an idea of what will be worked on or discussed. Pre-work should be:

  • relevant – the material needs to be relevant to the scope of the meeting. Participants need to understand how the pre-work ties to the objectives and how it will be incorporated into the session.
  • valuable – pre-work shouldn’t be busywork. Pre-work should build engagement for what will be discussed. Ideally, portions of the meeting will move more quickly because participants have already seen or provided feedback on the pre-work.
  • active – if possible, have the participants do something in preparation for the meeting. This will be enthusiasm and accountability for its output.
  • imperfect – pre-work is a starting point; therefore, its purpose is to show a potential deliverable without the group’s effort. Don’t get caught up in trying to make a perfect draft. Share the head start and let the experts take it from there!

Pre-work can be everything from drafts of materials and reference guides to lunch menus and instructions to get to the conference space.

How much time will participants need for pre-work?

Your best sessions happen when you have the right participants ready to work. To do that they must have time to prepare. I have a 24 hour-per-hour meeting rule. Thus, for every hour we will meet, I need to give the participants at least 24 hours notice. The longer the meeting, the more preparation the attendees will need and therefore the longer the lead time need for them to review the pre-work materials.

Does every meeting need pre-work?

Think you don’t need pre-work? Guess again. I consider a meeting purpose and agenda pre-work. Send the invitation with the agenda no less than 24 hours before the meeting.  I guarantee your attendees will always appreciate a heads up about what will be discussed.

Meetings of all lengths and sizes must have purpose and preparation to achieve their outcomes. Putting time into developing pre-work will serve the entire group by having participants that are ready to achieve the meeting objectives.